-- The Home Page of the Finishing Industry
Serious Education & the most FUN
you can have in metal finishing smiley

No popups, spam, registration or passwords
on this site
current topics
topic 11351

ZrN (zirconium nitride) coatings


Q. Hi,

I'm studying some coating and I would have some information about ZrN coating. Please inform me about advantages of this coating and what is the process.


christophe petit
Christophe Petit
- Chicago, Illinois, USA


A. Hello Christophe!

ZrN is a commonly applied physical vapor deposition coating. When done right it looks like gold in color, and is more wear resistant even though it is quite thin (about 2 to 5 microns). I know Richter Precision does this process, and can tell you a lot more about it. Do a search on "PVD coatings" and you'll likely find others.

Good luck!

lee gearhart
Lee Gearhart


A. ZrN is a hard coating, somewhat harder than TiN, but otherwise very similar in nature. It is used on cutting tools, but to a lesser degree than TiN, as it is somewhat more expensive to deposit. It is better than TiN for decorative purposes -- much closer in color to gold, and provides better corrosion resistance. By adding a little carbon, you can achieve a brass color. The gold drills sold at Sears are ZrN coated, as are many high-priced faucets and door knobs.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
PVD Consultant - San Diego, California

Zirconium Nitride Plating on Steel


Q. Our facility though not a metal finishing company utilizes many finishing processes to enhance metal surfaces for our end product. I am currently researching potential processes and formulas to add to our electroplating facility. Our one and only electroplating process is a non alkaline zinc on 1008 Steel. What processes are available which will enable our organization to add titanium or zirconium nitride plating? The ultimate goal is to add a gold finish to an existing product, but keep our zinc electroplating as well. What options are available to us to enhance our current plating line to add another finish? What are the waste treatment liabilities and options for adding a zirconium nitride process?

Michele La Vasseur
- East Bloomfield, New York


A. Hi Michele. Titanium nitride and zirconium nitride are not applied by electroplating. They are applied by PVD processes (gaseous processes) in a vacuum chamber. However, it is often desirable or necessary to include an electroplated underplate--perhaps nickel plating--underneath the PVD coating.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Just to add to the previous response, it depends very much on what you are looking for in a finish. For decorative coating purposes, a thin ZrN is usually deposited over electroless nickel, sometimes with a hard chrome interface. For wear applications, a much thicker ZrN coating is applied directly on the substrate. As the ZrN is deposited by PVD, there is no waste stream.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California


A. Ted is correct that an electroplated layer is needed. TiN and ZrN like coatings are noble in nature and will cause severe corrosion in steels if applied directly. You need to seal the steel similar to that in decorative chrome. These need to be applied as the final finish. Also, severe difference in thermal expansion coefficient will result in cracking of nitrides if applied directly. Depending on size and shape, there may be a limitation where it can be applied.

Mandar Sunthankar
- Fort Collins, Colorado

sidebar 2002

Isn't zinc one of the elements that sublimes in vacuum when it gets hot? If so, depositing ZrN or TiN over the zinc plating might be very difficult. The plating will be coming off when the coating is going down.

John Davis
John Davis
- Berthoud, Colorado, USA


It is generally a bad idea to heat zinc coated objects in a vacuum system. In fact, it's not a good idea to put them in there in the first place. Zinc has a very high vapor pressure, and will contaminate the chamber.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California

March 2014

Hi John. Hi Jim. Thanks for warning us about that issue. But I didn't read it that Michele wanted to put zinc plated parts through the PVD process.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Residue after ZrN coating

March 21, 2014

Q. I have a surgical blade that has a ZrN coating (2-5 microns thick). The blades have set on a shelf for a month or so and leave a blackish residue when wiped across with a piece of paper. A soft cloth yields no residue only paper. The blades are cleaned in 40KHz ultrasonic bath using 1.5% Citranox cleaner for 2 minutes (any longer turns the light gold color to a rust orange color). Rinsed in DI water and sealed in a porous pouch for sterilization. Any ideas as to what the black residue is?

Thanks in advance!

Jennifer Wright
- Vermilion, Ohio USA

March 27, 2014

Question: Are the blades sitting on the shelf before cleaning, or after cleaning, i.e., do you see the black residue after you have removed them from the sterilization pouch?

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California

March 27, 2014

Q. The blades are sitting on the shelf after coating (which have the residue). Once an order is placed, we pull from stock and run through the ultrasonic wash (which we have determined does not remove the residue).

I have heard that the ZrN coating can leave a "dust" that is nearly impossible to clean off without rubbing the surface that was coated.

Thank you,

Jennifer Wright [returning]
- Vermilion Ohio

March 28, 2014

A. The coating was likely deposited by cathodic arc. In this process, an intense arc is formed on the target that locally evaporates and ionizes the metal. It also forms a pool of molten metal on the surface. The pool spits out droplets of molten metal which land on the substrate and solidify. These macro-particles might be what you are seeing.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California

If you have a question in mind which seems off topic, please Search the Site

ADD a Comment to THIS thread START a NEW threadView CURRENT TOPICS

Disclaimer: It's not possible to diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations may be deliberately harmful.

  If you need a product/service, please check these Directories:

JobshopsCapital Equip. & Install'nChemicals & Consumables Consult'g, Train'g, SoftwareEnvironmental ComplianceTesting Svcs. & Devices

©1995-2018, Inc., Pine Beach, NJ   -   About   -  Privacy Policy
How Google uses data when you visit this site.